With summer in full swing we are taking a look at where Clemson’s P5 opponents stand for the 2019 season. Over the summer we’ll be conducting Q&As with our fellow SB Nation sites for opposing teams as well as providing our own scouting report. We continue with the Tigers’ Week 6 opponent: the Florida State Seminoles. Juan Montavlo of Tomahawk Nation was kind enough to join us and provide with the scoop of Willie Taggart’s second season at the helm.
STS: Coach Taggart has obviously struck an optimistic tune this offseason. What has been the mood of the fanbase in the wake of last year’s results?
TN: Bad, insolent, and unruly. Because of the lack of on field success, there have been significant portions of the fan base who are already strongly against Willie.
STS: There were plenty of problems last year, but issues on the offensive line had been worsening for year and finally exploded last year as injuries took their toll. What are your expectations for that group this offseason?
TN: Our founder Bud Elliott likes to use generalized terms, and as the sporting friendly man he is, I can understand those. He’s considering win totals, output, etc. and thinks below average is the ceiling for the unit.
I see a much more positive outlook as there is some legitimate talent across the front 5. He can dismiss it as much as he wants, but the Briles offense has never relied on deep setting tackles to protect 5+ set drops. The talent is guard heavy, but it’s there. With an OL coach in Randy Clements who knows Kendall and the Briles system well, I am of the opinion average is more than attainable.
STS: Cam Akers was really held back by a struggling offensive line last year. Were his struggles that simple? He seems like an obvious breakout/bounceback candidate here in his junior year. Is that a label you’d agree with?
TN: Yes. Akers ran away from even obvious holes though. It’ll take him time to trust that unit again. I think Khalan Laborn will sneak up on people.
STS: James Blackman was thrust into action as a freshman, but then was able to redshirt last year. Now they’ve brought in Alex Hornibrook from Wisconsin, but it still sounds like Blackman is more likely to start? How do you feel about those two options?
TN: James Blackman could not be more perfect for this offense if Briles drew him on paper. Well, he could be RG3, but few are that lucky.
Blackman does well what this offense asks for: hit the short passes quick and be accurate on the single coverage bombs. Blackman to Terry will be a shockingly good combo to most ACC fans.
STS: What do you see as the positions of strength for this team? Potential weaknesses?
TN: Receivers are a major position of strength. At FSU it almost always will be. Trinidad Terry is the known threat, but FSU has Warren Thompson outside, along with DJ Matthews, Keyshawn Helton, D’Marcus Adams, Ontaria Wilson and Jordan “IROC” Young spelling them inside.
STS: Home games against Boise State, Syracuse, and Miami to go along with a road slate that includes Virginia, Clemson, and Florida give the Seminoles a reasonably challenging schedule. What are reasonable expectations for FSU heading in 2019?
TN: “Reasonable expectations” implies a situation where reasonable expectations can be considered acceptable. FSU is in a dire situation. FSU is in a situation where a coach not yet to his second year of actual football has seen bag dropping dry up on the recruiting trail. So booster support where it really matters is hurting. While that’s not particularly germane to on field success in 2019, it just magnified how critical this year is to Taggart and FSU’s near to medium term future.
That being said, it seems most win shares I’m seeing think the most likely regular season win scenarios are 8 then 7 then 9. I think 8 wins is a critical to get fans and bag men sold on progress.
It can’t be overstated how critical the Boise game is. It sets the tone. I think a reasonable expectation is 8 wins, beating Boise and one of the two in state rivals. Anyone who expects FSU to compete with Clemson is a crank.